- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - It’s the skinny skier’s version of venturing off-piste at Mount Spokane’s Cross-Country Ski Park.

Unannounced by signs, a discrete series of orange diamonds leads into the forest off the groomed Nordic trails. A mountain man’s eye for a blaze is required to spot the first marker on the downhill side of the teaching area beyond Selkirk Lodge.

Special nails fix it to a tree near the start of the groomed trail called Brian’s Hill.

The route instantly departs from the wide, road-like packed swath and perfect parallel grooves set by a snowcat. Tracks along the forest route, informally known as Art’s Boogie, are made by squirrels, grouse, snowshoe hares and skiers breaking trail through the trees.


“This makes me giggle,” Art Bookstrom said with a laugh, unleashing child-like joy as his touring skis skimmed through the snow, dropped down and immediately sprang up from a small depression.

“All of these little fun spots in the terrain are smoothed out of the groomed trails.”

A recent Tuesday was the perfect opportunity to follow the orange markers back into the early days of cross-country skiing. The main trails in Mount Spokane State Park’s Nordic system are not groomed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the alpine skiing concession is closed. The mountain was smothered with four inches of new, unblemished powder snow from a storm that had packed its bags, departed and left the mountain sparkling and surrounded by an imperial blue sky.

Just a few dozen skiers had the wonderland to themselves.

“Every once in a while somebody else finds this trail and takes off on it wondering where it leads,” Bookstrom said.

Other than the green dotted line added to the big map in Selkirk Lodge, skiers learn about Art’s Boogie by word of mouth.

“This trail doesn’t just remind me of what cross-country skiing was like when I was little; it makes me feel like a kid again,” Bookstrom said.

That’s no small feat for an inconspicuous 3-kilometer route - the semi-retired Spokane geologist is 75 years old.

He remembers a childhood friend converting military wood skis to Nordic skis with door hinges that served as bindings by screwing one side to the skis and the other to the boot soles.

Bookstrom is like a feisty grandpa bridging the gaps at Mount Spokane between tradition and progress as well as between young and mature skiers. He’s organized the autumn volunteer work days to clear the Nordic trails of trees and brush. He provides accordian background music during the annual Langlauf 10K race - before and after he competes.

On Saturdays in January and February, about a hundred youngsters in the Nordic Kids program fly gleefully off small jumps that are handmade by Bookstrom, a service he’s provided for nearly three decades.

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